The word “break” can mean a lot of things right now.

We were supposed to have been heading into spring break, a time to recharge with friends and family. We’re now starting a break that will last longer and be about a lot more. As communities who live and learn together, it’s a break of a different sort since we won’t be physically in the same space.

It’s also a heartbreaking time for a lot of us, whether we’re sad about leaving our Claremont family, and not getting the end we had every right to expect.

I just want to say I recognize this is hard for all of us and my heart goes out to all of you. We’ll work together to do what we can to move forward––knowing that it won’t be the same and, of course, shouldn’t be. Whatever it is, I hope we can build it together in a way that recognizes our individual needs and limits, as well as the needs we might have as a community.

Right now this is what you have to know:

  1. I’m here if you need help with ANYTHING, from a (virtual) shoulder to cry on to an advocate getting information from your college.
  2. Next week I will send you a quick questionnaire to assess our individual circumstances.
  3. I will propose some changes to our syllabus and class as a starting point for us to consider.
  4. From now on, we should think of our online home as Sakai instead of this website.
  5. Our goal will be to meet online starting Tuesday, March 23 March 31, but just to troubleshoot technology and talk about the path ahead. More on this soon.

Wherever you go and however you’re dealing with this, I wish you only the best of everything. Be well and please do let me know if there is anything I can do.

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Week 8: on the cusp of the break

We’re at the halfway point in our semester together. This week we have our first essay of the semester and we’ll turn our focus to our upcoming class guest.

Your main focus this week will undoubtedly be on our first Synthesis Essay, due in class on Tuesday. The essay should be written in accordance with our “writing guidelines” and include footnotes. You do not need to type up a separate bibliography.

This week we will also begin reading and discussing Angela Davis: An Autobiography. We’ll start with Parts 1-3 (pages 1-144). It might seem like a lot but this is a very readable book by a writer with a very interesting life story. Do your best to read what you can for Tuesday.

Take care and be well until next time!

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Week 7

My apologies again for having to cancel class but sometimes life is simply unavoidable. Thanks for your understanding.

This week we’ll discuss Latinx movements more broadly as we continue our discussion of Chicano (Mexican American) movements and begin an exploration of Boricua (Puerto Rican) movements. We have two pairs of readings to help us do that. The first pair are two academic articles, one on the Young Lords and the other on the Brown Berets. They are “The Young Lords and the Social and Structural Roots of Late Sixties Urban Radicalism,” by Johanna Fernandez and “Revolutionary Sisters: Women’s Solidarity and Collective Identification among Chicana Brown Berets in East Los Angeles, 1967-1970,” by Dionne Espinoza. You should prepare your Breakdown 5 assignment on these two readings only.

The other two readings are excerpts from two historical primary sources. The first is from Palante!, a 1971 book that published writings of the Young Lord Party. The second is an abridged version of El Plan de Santa Barbara, the April 1969 document that serves as one of the “founding documents” of the movement. We’ll set aside some of our discussion time to focus on these two readings. You do not have to write about them in your Breakdown assignment.

Synthesis Essay
The goal of this essay is to synthesize your understanding of our course materials in the form of a historical essay. Your essay should identify a topic that is significant across the readings and formulate an argument related to that topic. Evidence from the readings should be used to substantiate your argument and develop your line of thinking.

Unlike a summary essay that merely asks you to describes the readings, this essay asks you to analyze––that is, to draw meaning from the readings (in this case, the “evidence”) while being cognizant of the larger historical context. As you do, be conscious of the limits of your argument and the ways in which the readings may provide evidence of a slightly different analysis or understanding.

To design and write your essay, you should do the following: 1) consult the readings, your reading notes, and your Breakdown assignments; 2) identify a topic or issue that is rooted to the readings; 3) develop a thesis, reflecting what you have concluded about the issue after a careful consideration of the readings; and 4) construct an argument supporting the thesis with evidence from the readings.

We’ll talk more about the thesis and how you work with evidence in class. In the meantime, it would be good to get started on steps 1 and 2.

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Week 6

You don’t have to write a Breakdown assignment this week. That said, you will want to still take notes that might help with your first Synthesis Essay, which is due in two weeks.

This week we’ll finish reading Racism on Trial by Ian F. Haney López. Please read chapters 5-9 for our in-class discussion. You should also watch “Taking Back the Schools,” the third episode in the 1996 series Chicano! A History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement, which you can watch on YouTube.

We’ll discuss the readings and try to focus in on the role of police repression in the shaping of the Brown Berets. We’ll also spend some time in class learning more about the rise of the Chicana feminist movement as we look at a few foundational documents from the time.

With a due date of March 10, you should also begin thinking about your first Synthesis Essay. As their title implies, this assignment is about synthesizing some understanding from our readings thus far and expressing that understanding in the form of an essay.
Your essay (with properly formatted footnotes should not exceed 7 pages.

They key to this essay is coming up with an argument that you substantiate with evidence from the readings. Don’t just tell us what to think––show us by engaging with the texts we’ve read. Your Breakdown assignments will be a useful start here, as will your notes from our discussions. Whichever sources you choose to draw from, your argument should be something that crosses over at least two organizations or movements we’ve learned about.

Be well until next time…

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Week 5

We’ll make our first switch this week as our discussion turns to the Chicano Movement.

The book we’re reading is Racism on Trial: The Chicano Fight for Justice, by Ian F. Haney López. It’s a unique book in several ways. While it is very academic (and even theoretical), it is also very readable. It’s written by a legal scholar who is one of the leaders in the field of Latino Critical Race Theory, or “Lat Crit.” And, while the book is about a very specific history, it also does a really thorough job of introducing readers to the larger field of Mexican American history.

We’ll begin our discussion of these historical events by reading the introduction and chapters 1-4 (pages 1-108). As usual, please write your Breakdown 4 assignment on the readings. To give you a little better sense of the larger story of the Chicano Movement, I also ask you watch an episode of the 1996 documentary Chicano! A History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement. The episode you will watch is “Quest for a Homeland,” the first episode of four. It is available online via YouTube.

Take care until next time!

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Week 4

This week we continue our discussion of Black Power by reading our next course book, Living for the City: Migration, Education, and the Rise of the Black Panther Party by Donna Jean Murch.

Murch is a stellar researcher and analyst who has given us a really well-written book on an important and exciting topic. You are asked to read only the Introduction (pages 3-11) and Chapters 2-6 (pages 41-190). This way we can work together to analyze the book in our next class.

Some advice on the reading: This reading assignment will be a lot easier to finish and to do well if you do it in small pieces. Spend some time over the next week taking it in a chapter at a time. Make marks as you go identifying useful quotes and take notes you can use to make a more complete Breakdown assignment when you’re done. This is one of those times when slow and steady wins the race.

As usual, you also have your next Breakdown assignment (#3) due on the above reading.

Our next class is the fourth week of the semester. Coincidentally, our first Synthesis Essay will be due four weeks after our next class. There’s not much you have to do for this assignment now other than continuing to do our course readings and being intentional about our Breakdown assignments. Remember to treat those as a record of the research you are doing reading our course texts. This next one should give you plenty to think about and engage with.

Be well until next time!

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Week 3

This week we will discuss the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC (pronounced “Snick”). SNCC is one of the more exciting stories of the Civil Rights era, which is saying something. They are also one of those movements with a history that mirrors the arc of the larger movement in many important ways.

We’ll begin our class with a discussion of readings from the book called Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women. Unlike most of what we read as a class, this work is not a single narrative crafted by a historian. Instead, these are personal accounts of SNCC from some of the women who lived and shaped its history. The other reading we have is a chapter on SNCC from a book called Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul, by Tanisha C. Ford. It is an academic piece but one that brings us a critical perspective on an important element of the history we discuss.

As usual, it is your responsibility to write your Breakdown 2 assignment on both of the above readings. You can consider the readings from Hands on the Freedom Plow to be a single source as you do. Also, because of the uniqueness of the reading, you will likely have to do a little more analytical thinking as you complete the “Breakdown” on that reading.

Finally, I ask you to watch another documentary. This one is called Freedom on My Mind. It is a stirring account of SNCC and their work during the period, culminating with the summer of 1964. It is available on Sakai.

There are two “EXTRA” readings for this week. Each is optional and not required. I do ask you to consider reading one of them voluntarily.  If you do, please come prepared to share some of that knowledge with the class next Tuesday.

Be well until then!

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Week 2

We’ll begin our first “regular” week with a discussion of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s.

You have some reading, viewing, and writing to do for our class. The reading is the first six chapters of the book The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It. Written by Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, this is a memoir of one of the movement’s most unrecognized leaders. It will give us a wonderful insider’s look into one of the most important historical events of the 20th century. The book is available to you as an e-book on the library’s website. Just search for it by title and limit your search results to items held by the Claremont Colleges.

To compliment the reading you will also watch a documentary on this period of the movement. ““Awakenings (1954-1956)” is the first episode in the multivolume series Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Movement. This historic documentary series was a significant event in the historiography of the movement. It features interviews with most of the key players and provides a narrative that continues to be reflective of mainstream thinking on the field. The video is available to you via the Video 47 tab on our Sakai site.

Finally, you will write your “Breakdown 1” assignment on this week’s readings. You only need to breakdown the Robinson reading, not the film. Still, it will be helpful to your thinking to watch the film before preparing your breakdown. Like all future iterations of this assignment, you should print it out and bring it to class to turn in. This will not only let me collect your assignment for ease of grading, it will also allow you to draw from it in the course of our discussion.

Have a good week until we see each other again!

This is the bus Rosa Parks boarded on December 1, 1955.  It is now fully restored and on display at the Henry Ford Museum, in Dearborn, Michigan.
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Welcome to the online home for our Spring 2020 course “American Inequality” (HIST 127 CH PO). The class is taught by me, Tomás F. Summers Sandoval Jr. I am an Associate Professor of History and Chicanx~Latinx Studies at Pomona College.

This website is a tool for us to share important course information and resources with each other. Feel free to explore the pages above where you’ll find our course description, learning outcomes, assignments, grading policies, required books, and a password-protected page with our week-by-week schedule.  I’ll give you a the password at our first class meeting.

In addition to this site, we’ll also be using our Sakai site.  That’s where you’ll find all our digital readings, as well as the films we’ll watch for class.

I’ll have the full syllabus for you on Tuesday but in the meantime our website is a web-based version of the full syllabus.  After exploring, if you have any remaining questions, feel free to send me an email and I will answer them as promptly as I can.

I look forward to seeing you on Tuesday, January 21 in Mason 15! Be well until then!

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